Fall 2009 • Issue 19


Collins Becomes NIH Director

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. being sworn in as the 16th NIH director.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. being sworn in
as the 16th NIH Director.

On August 17, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., was sworn in as the 16th NIH Director, following a unanimous Senate confirmation on August 7. Said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius following Dr. Collins’ confirmation: “Dr. Collins will be an outstanding leader. Today is an exciting day for NIH and for science in this country.”

Having served as Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993 to 2008, Dr. Collins assumed the NIH directorship after a 1-year break, during which he completed a book on personalized medicine, The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine, which will be published in early 2010.

At his first town hall meeting as NIH Director, Dr. Collins outlined five areas of special opportunity for NIH: high-throughput technologies; translating NIH science into practice; putting science to work for the benefit of health care reform; increasing focus on global health; and reinvigorating and empowering the biomedical research community through stable and predictable funding increases, high-quality training programs, rewarding risky and innovative approaches, emphasizing the diversity of the workforce, and using the NIH Common Fund to support projects that fall outside the mandate of a single Institute or Center.

Dr. Collins’s own research laboratory, which he plans to maintain, has discovered a number of important genes, including those responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s Disease, a familial endocrine cancer syndrome, and most recently, genes for adult-onset (type 2) diabetes and the gene that causes Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome. Dr. Collins’s longstanding interest in the interface between science and faith led him to author The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, 2006).

Dr. Collins received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Yale University, and an M.D. with honors from the University of North Carolina. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007. In October, he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

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